“How should I negotiate a job offer that includes relocating to another country?”

Question:  Hi, Alan. I have a question for you. Recently I  was selected to fulfill a position in a world wide company. I had a phone call from Human Resources to inform me about that. The position offered requires that I relocate abroad, and I have accepted the relocation, but the company has not yet made a salary offer.

I am expecting a call in the next 3 days from this company to make an offer and then I will accept or decline the job offer depending on what they are offering.

Can you please tell me how I should deal with that kind of situation and what to negotiate because I am taking risks like leaving my actual employer after 9 years working with them, how flexible should I be about salary and benefits and children’s school allowances, etc.?

Can I ask for some financial guarantee if I lose my job? It is a really good organization, and I need some experience abroad to enhance my career. Thank you.

         Nantes, France

Answer:  Hello, Gardin. Let me try to help you. 

First, congratulations on receiving a job offer from a really good organization. That says good things about you. As I will explain below, if the organization is truly a “good” and “worldwide” organization, you probably will not need to worry too much about relocating for it.

Second, every transition from one employer to another involves risks. The new relation may be a good and fulfilling relation; on the other hand, it may not be a positive experience for you. However, you must take some risks to grow and prosper.

Third, every new relation requires some flexibility, whether it is a friendship, a marriage or employment. That being said, you cannot be flexible beyond the point where it hurts you in regards to your finances, your reputation or, especially, your family. You should not take unnecessary risks when it comes to those three important parts of your life.

For example, if the country to which you will be expatriated is such that your children will require tuition assistance, find out now how much that is, and ask for that. You have suggested it might be wise to ask for some financial guarantee if you lose your job. That is a very smart request to make; I usually ask for either (a) a minimum severance payment in case of any termination, such as 12 months salary, benefits and bonus, or (b) a minimum period of notice before you can be terminated, such as 6 months.

Fourth, you are always free to request a reasonable change or improvement in the terms of employment you are offered. There is no limit, other than what your employer feels is unreasonable. I believe that you can ask for any improvement in the terms of your employment, so long as you use what I call “The Three R’s”:

 (1) Respect: you must express your request respectfully;
 (2) Reasonableness: Your requests must be reasonable; if you ask for a million-dollar bonus, you will ruin any chance of further discussion;
 (3) Rationale: Your requests must each be presented with a good, sound “reason” you are making it.

So long as you are making any request and use these “Three R’s” you are unlikely to have any significant downside risk.  Every aspect of a new employment relation can be negotiated, including salary, benefits and responsibilities. That being said, most larger companies do not make major changes to job offers after they have made the offer, as they have “levels,” “grades,” and “classes” of employees, and they usually assign certain salaries, benefits and responsibilities to each.

Fifth, I have identified 18 requests every employee should consider making when being asked to relocate to another country. See my Newsletter: “Expatriate Assigments – The 18 Mandatory Requests.” These are the 18 most important things that I have negotiated for employees in your situation. It is there for your reading on the blog. (Don’t forget to ask that, if they move you and your family for the job, they agree to move you back in the same way at the end of the job.)

Finally, as I mentioned above, “good” employers will have a comprehensive and detailed “package” of protections they offer to those who expatriate for their jobs. Ask the Human Resources representative if this company has such a comprehensive and detailed policy or package for your review.

Taking a new job always entails risks. Taking a new job and relocating for that job involves more risks, and special ones. You need to be flexible, but you should not be foolish. Please take the time to review the “18 Mandatory Requests for Expat’s” that I have written.

One last thing: whatever you do, if you do not get a written agreement regarding all of the terms and conditions of the job, and all of the terms and conditions of the relocation benefits, you can put everything you have been “promised” in spoken words into a written email, and send that email to Human Resources, and ask them to confirm, in a return email, that these promises are accurate. That is the equivalent of a contract.

As you can see, you need to be careful in making a transition like the one you are contemplating. If you are careful, chances are you’ll enjoy the rewards.

Hope this is helpful. I hope, too, that you have great success and joy in this new opportunity.

          Best, Al Sklover   

©  2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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